Scientists in Brazil have discovered the first new river dolphin species since the end of World War One.
Named after the Araguaia river where it was found, the species is only the fifth known of its kind in the world.
Writing in the journal Plos One, the researchers say it separated from other South American river species more than two million years ago.
There are believed to be about 1,000 of the creatures living in the Araguaia river basin.
River dolphins are among the world’s rarest creatures.
According to the IUCN, there are only four known species, and three of them are on the Red List, meaning they are critically endangered.
These dolphins are only distantly related to their seafaring cousins, tending to have long beaks which let them hunt for fish in the mud at the bottom of rivers.
One of the best known species, the Yangtze river dolphin or baiji isbelieved to have gone extinct in about 2006.
South America though is home to the Amazon river dolphin, also known as the pink dolphin or boto, said to be the most intelligent of all the river species.
The new discovery is said to be related to the Amazonian, although scientists believe the species separated more than two million years ago.
“It is very similar to the other ones,” said lead author Dr Tomas Hrbek, from the Federal University of Amazonas.
“It was something that was very unexpected, it is an area where people see them all the time, they are a large mammal, the thing is nobody really looked. It is very exciting.”
The scientists say there are some differences in the number of teeth and they suspect the Araguaia river species is smaller, but most of the clues to their separate nature were found in their genes.
By analysing DNA samples from dozens of dolphins in both rivers, the team concluded the Araguaia river creature was indeed a new species.
They acknowledge though that some experts may question whether or not the discovery is in fact, wholly distinct.
“In science you can never be sure about anything,” said Dr Hrbek.
“We looked at the mitochondrial DNA which is essentially looking at the lineages, and there is no sharing of lineages.
“The groups that we see, the haplotypes, are much more closely related to each other than they are to groups elsewhere. For this to happen, the groups must have been isolated from each other for a long time.
“The divergence we observed is larger than the divergences observed between other dolphin species,” he said.
The researchers propose that the new species be called the Araguaian Boto, or Boto-do-Araguaia.
They estimate that there are about 1,000 of these creatures living in the river that flows northward for more than 2,600km to join the Amazon.
The researchers are concerned about the future for the new dolphin, saying that it appears to have very low levels of genetic diversity.
They are also worried because of human development.
“Since the 1960s the Araguaia river basin has been experiencing significant anthropogenic pressure via agricultural and ranching activities, and the construction of hydroelectric dams,” the authors write in their study.
“The dolphins are at the top of the line, they eat a lot of fish,” said Dr Hrbek.
“They rob fishing nets so the fishermen tend to not like them, people shoot them.”
They believe that as a result of the threats that it faces, the new species should be categorised as Vulnerable on the Red List.
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Japanese fishermen rounded up more than 250 bottlenose dolphins in a secluded cove to kill for meat or sell into a lifetime of captivity, U.S. conservationists warned.
The annual hunting of dolphins at Taiji Cove highlights the rift between conservationists worldwide who see it as a bloody slaughter and Japanese who defend it as a local custom.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society first raised the alarm over the plight of the dolphins Friday, saying five separate pods of bottlenose dolphins had been “driven into Taiji’s infamous killing cove.”
The group warned that the dolphins would “face a violent and stressful captive selection process. Babies and mothers will be torn from each other’s sides as some are taken for captivity, some are killed, and others are driven back out to sea to fend for themselves.”
By the end of Saturday, 25 dolphins had been removed from their pod and taken “to a lifetime of imprisonment,” the group said. One of them died in the process and will be butchered, it said.
The dolphins will be kept penned in the cove for another night before the selection process begins again Sunday.
Full story and video: CNN
A maritime museum in Pakistan’s most populous city, Karachi, is housing an unlikely trio for a whale and sea lion show that begins this week and owes its existence to the growing role of Russia in the international marine-mammal trade.
A trained beluga whale, dolphin, and sea lion will perform for the public three times a day in “a water show that will be the first of its kind to take place in Pakistan,” according to “The Express Tribune.”
A “large pool…built expecially for the purpose” sits in a stadium that holds around 2,000 people at the Maritime Museum, near a Pakistani Navy training and educational facility, PNS Karsaz.
The animals will jump, sing, and “give a stellar performance” once the public show begins next week, the report adds.
The decidedly exotic import thrusts Pakistan and the show’s organizers into a raging global debate over the capture and treatment of intelligent marine mammals, particularly those with complex family and social structures and behaviors that cannot be approximated in tanks.
The World Wide Fund for Nature is among those criticizing the decision to bring the captive cetaceans (dolphins and whales) to Pakistan for oceanarium shows.
“We strongly suggest to the government and the agencies concerned to reconsider the initiative and look into the matter in detail. There are sufficient opportunities for public to see wild dolphins off the shore of Pakistan, especially Karachi. They can be observed without too much effort or expense and the experience is much more rewarding,” Pakistan’s “Dawn” newspaper quoted the group as saying.
Behavioral scientists and opponents of captivity for such wild animals are likely to cringe at the message that organizers are hoping to deliver to Pakistani audiences.
The “Tribune” article quotes “Ali, one of the organisers, at the special demo show they held for the media on Saturday [January 4]” as saying the show “aims to create awareness about the species’ human-friendly nature.”
The whale-captivity debate has been kindled most recently by the American documentary film “Blackfish,” which chronicles the plight of killer whale Tilikum, involved in the deaths of three people since his capture off Iceland three decades ago.
The film is an indictment of the secretive trade in such intelligent mammals and the massive funds that they can generate in the entertainment industry.
Among its biggest targets is the perception that killer whales and other such animals — which generally live in tightly based social groups that travel tens of kilometers or more every day — can be acclimated to sedentary lives surrounded mostly by humans.
Source: Radio Free Europe
A lone dolphin is making friends along Australia’s east coast, coming to shore to play with surprised humans, but wildlife experts are pleading with people to avoid interaction to ensure she stays wild.
The bottlenose dolphin, estimated to be around three to four years of age, has been getting attention since becoming stranded at Sussex Inlet in September 2012.
Wildlife experts decided to catch and release her back into the ocean after they became concerned that some people were harassing the animal.
In the last two weeks she has been seen in Pittwater, north of Sydney, and at beaches down to Sydney harbour. On Monday she interacted with swimmers and surfers off Shelly beach, Manly, Fairfax reported.
She appears to have little fear of people, joining them for a swim or a surf for hours at a time, even if the swimmers try to avoid it.
Reece Monley, a resident of Sydney’s northern beaches, was surfing at Long Reef on Thursday and told Guardian Australia the dolphin had been in the area all day.
“It jumped right next to everyone, then it would pop up half a foot away and swim right next to you,” he said.
“It was just circling everyone underneath them like a shark. It would look at you, pop up and then go back down. It didn’t care if people were touching it – it just kept wanting to be played with. Three girls kept diving down with it.”
Shona Lorigan, vice-president of the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (Orrca) told Guardian Australia she understood it was difficult to stay away from the animal.
“It’s very hard to resist her when she swims right up to you, but we’re trying to get people to limit their interaction,” Lorigan said.
“Particularly for the surfers it’s very difficult because she’s grabbing their leg ropes and jumping over their boards, so just stay still and enjoy the view.”
Lorigan said Orrca was asking people to follow some “golden rules” and not chase the dolphin, grab her dorsal fin, go anywhere near her tail or feed her.
“It is our hope that by limiting her interactions we are encouraging her to continue being a wild dolphin so she will eventually reintegrate with a wild pod,” she said.
Lorigan said the dolphin had access to a wild pod which lives off the coast of the Sydney northern beaches any time she decided to join it.
Scott Quin was swimming with friends in Pittwater near Palm Beach wharf in early December when the dolphin appeared beside them. He said he had heard the dolphin was in the area.
“The dolphin swam up [to us], and it would swim around the anchor lines of boats and things rubbing up on them,” Quin told Guardian Australia.
“Then it would come over and nudge at you, it definitely liked a good scratch. If you swam away it would swim around you jumping out of the water and sometimes over you.
“Whenever a boat came near or the ferry arrived or left it would swim off for a while and go have a good look at what was going on, swim around the boats for a bit and then come back,” he said.
Quin said he and his friends understood the potential risks to them, but said it was part of swimming in the ocean.
“I can completely understand the wildlife groups wanting it to rejoin a pod,” he said.
“It has had plenty of opportunities to, even before it started to get this friendly with people. Maybe it’s just lonely now.”
On Monday the National Parks and Wildlife Service issued a statement saying it was aware of the dolphin and asked people not to actively swim with it.
“I cannot stress enough that this is a wild animal and if it is threatened it will act on instinct and could unintentionally hurt someone,” NPWS Sydney Harbour area manager, Michael Treanor, said.
“Ultimately, if that happens the animal may need to be taken into captivity, which is not what anyone wants and what we have been working so hard to avoid.”
So much can be said with flowers – whether it’s I’m sorry, congratulations or simply I love you, they’re a gesture most people can identify with.
And so, it seems, can dolphins. A curiously romantic side to these charming marine mammals has been revealed in a stunning new BBC TV series, the first episode of which was released on 3rd January.
Documentary crews have been able to observe a male bottlenose dolphin wooing his sweetheart with a garland of seaweed.
She poses coquettishly with her gift, before their love is sealed by mating.
Documentary-makers went to extraordinary lengths to capture the dolphins’ mating rituals, using 13 remote-control devices shaped like turtles, tuna, clams and squid in the ocean off the coast of Mozambique.
They found that dolphins can be pushy parents, loyal friends, and prone to adolescent bursts of machismo.
‘This is the first time the daily lives of dolphins have been filmed at close range in such intimate detail,’ says zoologist and film-maker Rob Pilley.
Full story: Daily Mail
Robot dolphins, a robot tuna and a robot sea turtle fitted with HD cameras have filmed close encounters with real dolphins to capture their lives and reveal their mysteries to landlubbers watching warm and dry from their sofas.
“Swimming alongside some of the most captivating and clever animals on the planet, these new spies are always on the move — catching the waves with surfing bottlenose dolphins and speeding with a megapod of spinner dolphins,” according to BBC Media about its program “Dolphins: Spy In the Pod” to air Jan. 2
Our spy creatures had to keep pace with fast-moving dolphins, often out in the deep ocean,” said wildlife filmmaker John Downer, producer of the two-part TV series for BBC One. “The dolphins were very curious about their new neighbors and allowed them into their lives.”
The robotic sea animals are meant to trick the dolphins with the cameras lenses hidden inside their eyes, according to Wetpixel, the underwater photography magazine. Downer’s documentary has never-before filmed behavior taken by the underwater robot entourage that also includes a nautilus and a ray.
Each radio-controlled sea animal is packed with high tech equipment. The film has one sequence shot off the coast of Costa Rica in which the robotic Spy Dolphin is guided by experts in a high-speed inflatable boat. The dolphin robot easily keeps pace with the real-life spinner dolphins, which can cover 250 miles a day. When the spinner dolphins dive underwater, the filming is transferred from Spy Dolphin to the superfast robotic Spy Tuna, according to the Mirror. In the depths of the ocean, the tuna robot caught up with a megapod containing thousands of dolphins and filmed the spectacle.
The collection of motorized sea animals captured a variety of fascinating footage. The robot Spy Turtle filmed bottlenose dolphins surfing the waves. Spy Dolphin and Spy Ray got lucky off the Florida coast and were able to film a pod of dolphins stirring up mud to encircle their prey — a mullet.
The first episode screens in the UK today at 8pm on BBC1.
Source: International Science Times
Film-makers have infiltrated the ocean with secret cameras to capture dolphin behaviour in the wild as it has never been seen before.
They enlisted a menagerie of creatures, such as a molluscs, sea turtle and squid, with hidden lenses to get up close and personal for a new BBC natural history programme that will be shown on the BBC on Thursday.
In the clip here, the series director John Downer and producer Rob Pilley spoke to BBC
Dolphins – Spy in the Pod begins on January 2 on BBC One at 8pm.